Ex-Curves franchise owner Deborah blames “corporate greed, lack of quality control and a very poorly run infrastructure” for the once-proud Curves for Women fitness concept becoming (what some have called) the “trailer park of gyms.”
In a recent Curves franchise discussion (CURVES: Robert Lay’s Story), Deborah recounted what she describes as the unscrupulous overselling of the Curves franchise opportunity, and the resulting damage to the Curves for Women brand image:
When we bought a franchise in 2003, there were a few thousand clubs and the closest club was over 5 miles away. You had to have 30,000 or more in population to constitute a “territory”. It does not take many brain cells to realize that when Curves started selling “territories” with as few as 5,000 total population, that a) such territories were not large enough to support a club or b) that existing clubs would suffer member and revenue losses.
We went from a purist apporach to selling everything Curves could throw at us (even an overpriced travel service) in order to shore up corporate and club revenues. What was “contemplated by the parties” in contract terms at the time we signed our franchise agreement and what transpired thereafter, were at odds. Also, there was absolutely no quality control and some clubs were little more than slums. This caused a tarnishing of the Curves brand and I had some people tell me that Curves was the “trailer park of gyms”.
According to Deborah, Curves clubs cannibalized each other’s sales, spreading too-few members across too-many clubs. Add in lack of support and infrequent-to-nonexistent field visits and you have a recipe for widespread failure:
As the person who sold me the franchise said, they don’t care anything about you or what your are like or what your skills are if you have the money to buy. I was four years into my franchise before I even saw an area director. By that time, we had gone from having one or two other clubs in the area to having six. My membership numbers had peaked at around 600 and, by 2006, were at 300 and falling.
According to Deborah, Curves International would sell a franchise to anyone whose check would clear, including many who were neither qualified nor prepared for business ownership:
My experience with other owners was that some were reasonable business people, but many were naive and had no experience in business. I will never forget my training in Waco. The guy sitting next to me was a chicken farmer whose mother in law had bought him a franchise. As my salesman had said, Curves did not care if you had the money. This guy was a train wreck waiting to happen. By the time I got out of the franchise, three of the six clubs in the area had closed.
The Curves closures in Deborah’s area are consistent with national averages (Read: CURVES Franchise Owners React to Comments That They’re Being “Pruned”) . It’s been reported that 1000 domestic Curves locations closed in 2009 alone, and that in the past three years 1/3 of all domestic Curves clubs went dark. Yet despite the devastating losses suffered by Curves franchise owners, franchisor Curves International is enjoying healthy profits. Curves International actually increased earnings as a percentage of sales, with 2009 earnings of $16.4 million on revenue of $84.1 million.
According to Deborah, the demise of the Curves brand is the result of corporate greed and substandard franchisees:
The Curves disaster is down to corporate greed, lack of quality control and a very poorly run infrastructure…. Lack of care in chosing franchisees impacted the brand. I have no moved back to the Southeast. My local Curves has tacky and cheap paneling that is peeling off the walls, ancient and poorly maintained equipment and (horror of horrors) plastic flowers in plastic vases. The owner is fat, complaining and has the energy of a slug. Am I a member? You answer that one.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? HAS CURVES BECOME THE “TRAILER PARK OF GYMS”? SHARE A COMMENT BELOW.